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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Spittle Bugs

Spittle bug froth Spittle bug covered by froth Spittle bug nymph with froth Spittle bug adult Spittle bug damage Spittle bug nymph Click to enlarge.

Beginner

Scientific Name
Philaenus spumarius

Identification

  • Nymphs are found in white spit-like froth on plants
  • Nymphs are soft-bodied, and range in size from 0.3 cm (1/8 in.) to 0.6 cm (1/4 in.)
  • Young nymphs are yellow, yellowish orange, older nymphs are yellowish-green
  • Adults are brown or grey and 0.6 cm (1/4 in.) long
  • Spittlebug nymphs pierce the plant stems and suck plant juices
  • Leaves can be distorted and berries stunted if the populations are high
  • The leaves develop a crinkled and dark green appearance

Often Confused With
Cyclamen mite damage
Viruses
Leafhopper nymphs

Period of Activity
Nymphs appear in late April or early May and take 5- 8 weeks to mature.

Scouting Notes
Usually growers do not need to control spittlebugs. Expect high populations near grassy areas or pastures, or where broadleaved weeds are found in adjacent vegetation.

In high risk areas, begin monitoring in late April or early May in southern Ontario. Check all plants in 5 randomly selected 60 cm by 30 cm (2 ft x 1 ft) areas per acre of strawberries every 2 weeks. Early in the season, use the same areas that are monitored for strawberry clipper weevil. Begin by looking for spittle and nymphs at the base of the plants in the crown area. Later look on the underside of young leaves as they grow. On hot, dry days, the nymphs and their spittle may be at the base of the plant. On these days, spread the plants and inspect the crowns.

Thresholds
Pick-your-own customers dislike the frothy masses of spittle that the nymphs produce. They may be willing to accept about 2 spittle bugs per 0.2 m2 (2 sq ft) without complaints. Populations above 10 spittle masses per 0.2 m2 (2 sq ft) can reduce yields.

Advanced

Scientific Name
Philaenus spumarius

Identification
Spittle bug nymphs are found in white spit-like froth on plants. They are soft-bodied and elongated. Young nymphs are yellow and about 0.3 cm (1/8 in.) long. Older nymphs are green and 0.6 cm (1/4 in.) long. The adults, which are robust, brown or grey and 0.6 cm (1/4 in.) long, are rarely seen in strawberry fields and seldom cause problems.

Spittlebug nymphs pierce the plant stems and suck plant juices. Initially, they feed at the bases of the plants, but later move up onto the new, developing foliage. As they feed they excrete a frothy foam that protects them from predators. Occasionally, spittlebug feeding can cause leaves to be distorted and berries stunted if the nymphs feed excessively on them. The leaves develop a crinkled and dark green appearance which can resemble symptoms of crinkle virus.

Often Confused With
Cyclamen mite (Both spittlebug and cyclamen mite feeding can cause distorted growth.)
Viruses (Viruses can also cause crinkled or distorted growth on foliage.)
Leafhopper nymphs (Spittlebug nymphs are yellow, rather than green and are usually wet or associated with foam.)

Biology
Spittlebugs overwinter as eggs inserted into the leaf bases or crown of the plant. Eggs hatch and nymphs appear in late April or early May. The nymphs take 5- 8 weeks to mature. Adults migrate in June and return in September and October to lay their eggs.

Period of Activity
Nymphs appear in late April or early May and take 5- 8 weeks to mature.

Scouting Notes
Usually growers do not need to monitor specifically for spittlebugs, they will be evident when monitoring for other pests. Expect high populations near grassy areas, pastures, or where broadleaved weeds are found in adjacent vegetation.

Begin monitoring in late April or early May in southern Ontario. Check all plants in 5 randomly selected 60 cm by 30 cm (2 ft x 1 ft) areas per acre of strawberries every 2 weeks. Early in the season, use the same areas that are monitored for strawberry clipper weevil. Begin by looking for spittle and nymphs at the base of the plants in the crown area. Later look on the underside of young leaves as they grow. On hot, dry days, the nymphs and their spittle may be at the base of the plant. On these days, spread the plants and inspect the crowns.

Thresholds
Pick-your-own customers dislike the frothy masses of spittle that the nymphs produce. They may be willing to accept about 2 spittle bugs per 0.2 m2 (2 sq ft) without complaints. Populations above 10 spittle masses per 0.2 m2 (2 sq ft) can reduce yields.

Management Notes

  • Good weed management will help to control spittlebugs, because the adults are less likely to return in the fall to plantings that are free of weeds.
  • Usually, spittlebug populations will stay well below threshold levels when insecticides are applied to control tarnished plant bug.